Maura O'Shea

By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 23 November, 2022

The number of third level graduates in employment nine months after graduation has surpassed pre-pandemic levels with almost 82% finding work in this short timeframe – showing a strong rebound in employment rates since the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Graduate Outcomes Survey: Class of 2021 – launched by the Higher Education Authority at its 50th anniversary conference in Dublin today (Nov 23) – presents the findings of the fourth iteration of a national analysis of higher education graduate outcomes in Ireland.

This report is the second since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the first since a complete reopening of society and the labour market. Due to the onset of Covid-19 and the subsequent restrictions introduced in higher education institutions in March 2020, it was necessary to cancel the 2020 Graduate Outcomes Survey of 2019 graduates.

Last year’s report was the first in two years that allowed us to see the full picture of early-stage graduate outcomes and this year has allowed us to analyse these trends further.

The Graduate Outcomes Survey: Class of 2021 reveals:

  • 72,148 students graduated from across 23 higher education institutions (54% female, 46% male)
  • Overall, 81.9% of graduates are in employment nine months after graduation (up from 75.9% for the Class of 2000 and 80.1% for the Class of 2018)
  • Employment is highest for Education graduates (94.2%) and lowest for Arts & Humanities graduates (65%)
  • The most common fields of study are Business, Administration & Law (27.2%), Health & Welfare (15.6%) and Arts & Humanities (11.7%)
  • 9% graduated from Undergraduate Honours Degree programmes while 24.7% graduated from Taught Masters programmes.

For those with Undergraduate Honours Degrees, more than three-quarters (75.8%) were employed nine months after graduation – up significantly from 69.7% in 2020 and slightly above 74.7% in 2018. The proportion of graduates pursuing further study has decreased slightly to 18.3% in 2021, down from 20.9% in 2020. Unemployment amongst this cohort has decreased to 3.9% in 2021, down from 7.2% in 2020.

Nine months after graduation, 91% of those with Undergraduate Honours Degrees are working in Ireland. Dublin is the most common county of employment (43.1%), followed by Cork (13.8%) and Galway (7.1%). More than six in ten graduates (62.8%) consider their course Very Relevant or Relevant to their job.

For Postgraduate Taught Graduates, 89.7% were in employment nine months after graduation. In 2020, this was 84.9% and 88.4% in 2018. The proportion of these graduates pursuing further study remained steady at 3.6% in 2021, and 4% in 2020. Unemployment amongst this cohort has decreased, at 4.6% in 2021, down from 8.9% in 2020.

In 2021, 89.6% of Postgraduate Research Graduates were employed within nine months of graduation, down from 91.2% in 2020 and slightly up from 2018 when it was 88.5%. Unemployment in this cohort decreased to 3.4% in 2021, down from 4.8% in 2020.


Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, said: “This is a really important report, which provides key information on the outcomes for our graduates. It is very positive to see a strong rebound in employment levels among this cohort following the Covid-19 pandemic. The report also highlights the importance higher education brings to graduates and wider society, in terms of health and well-being, active citizenship and societal outcomes and this should be widely recognised.”

Higher Education Authority CEO, Dr Alan Wall said: “This wide-ranging report provides institutions, policy makers and future graduates with a thorough analysis of early career and further study outcomes after graduation.”

“This year’s release shows a strong labour market for our recent graduates who are securing employment across the economy in professional occupations. The detailed datasets that accompany this report will help institutions and other stakeholders in providing students and future graduates with appropriate career advice and valuable information on their course choices,” Dr Wall added.

Head of Skills, Engagement and Statistics at the Higher Education Authority, Dr Vivienne Patterson said:

“The findings of this report show that there has been a strong rebound in employment from last year’s Covid-19 pandemic-affected graduate employment rates. This is in line with broader economic trends which show continued employment growth across all sectors of the economy.”


This report also contains a chapter that collates the available research and data from organisations such as the CSO, OECD and Indecon on the broader outcomes from higher education beyond employment and salaries. These areas include trust in institutions, political engagement and impact on public policy; health; and parenting and childcare.

Review of the research shows that graduates of higher education tend to have a higher level of trust in public institutions; are more likely to vote; and have a greater awareness of, and sense of responsibility towards, social justice.

They are also more likely to live longer and experience obesity less than those with lower levels of education.  Maternal education levels have a significant impact on the educational outcomes of children, with higher educational attainment of mothers associated with superior child literacy and educational outcomes.

Research has also found that higher levels of education attainment have a broader societal impact, ensuring that Ireland can meet global challenges.



More: Dr Vivienne Patterson, Dr. Alan Wall, graduate outcomes 2021, HEA

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